Extension of Morning Businessby Former Senator Mark L. Pryor
Posted on 2013-01-24
PRYOR. Mr. President, I wish to thank Senator Levin and Senator
Alexander for their kind comments about me. The Senator from Tennessee
and I came to the U.S. Senate at the same time. That was 10 years ago.
One of the things I think everyone would agree with is we have seen over the last 10 years a waning of effectiveness in the Senate. A large part of that is the fact that this floor is not used as it should be. This floor has been used to block and obstruct. Both parties are guilty of that. This floor should be the marketplace of ideas. It should be where we come together and we work to resolve our differences. Our differences may be partisan, they may be regional, they may be philosophical, they may be generational, whatever, but our Founding Fathers set up our system of government where there would be one place where difficult, complex, thorny, even sometimes politically treacherous issues can be resolved, and that is on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
When we, again Democrats and Republicans, abuse the rules around here and we stymie the Senate from acting, we get gridlock, and gridlock is not good for the country. I firmly believe one of the reasons the American public is so disgusted with Congress right now is because of the things that are happening and not happening on this floor.
When we think about our system of government and when our Founding Fathers set it up, of course we have the three branches, but as a practical matter, the floor, right here, is the only place in our government where the American people--the people we represent--can actually see their law being made. Americans don't see law being made at the White House. They go out there and they huddle up in their conference rooms and they come out to the Rose Garden and they make the announcement. We never see the process. We don't see the process in the U.S. Supreme Court or in the courts of appeals. What happens there is the lawyers and the parties come in and make their cases and then the Justices and judges go back and conference and they talk about it back in their chambers, and they come out with their decision, and that is what we have. We don't always know what the deliberations are. We don't know all the considerations. The same thing in the U.S. House of Representatives, with all due respect to our other Chamber down the hall. Because of the way their rules operate, because of the Rules Committee and the way it is structured and their history and, quite frankly, their DNA, it is a majoritarian body. But not the U.S. Senate. In the Senate we allow Senators to amend and debate and to vote. That has been one of the problems here in the last 10 years. The Senator from Tennessee--and I see the Senator from Texas on the floor--we all came in together. This Senate has lost a lot of ability to do that.
I am firmly convinced we have sufficient verbiage in rule XXII of the Senate Rules to require a talking filibuster. I think that is critically important. It is not a new interpretation, but it is utilizing the existing interpretations, the longstanding history of the Senate, based on parliamentary decisions, based on decades of things that [[Page S266]] have happened here on the floor, where we have the authority already in rule XXII. But we have asked our two leaders to clarify and state and notify all of us how we are going to handle issues during this Congress. The way we are going to handle it when it comes to the talking filibuster is we are going to require Senators to be here to object. No more phone-in filibusters. We are going to require Senators to come down and state their objections, to come down and actually speak. If they have a problem with moving forward, they need to come and speak about it. If they want to start a filibuster, they should be here to speak on the floor. What is going to happen is the majority of Senators who want to see legislation get done may have to do a little work and be here late nights, but that is part of it. That is what we signed up for. It is like the Senator from Tennessee said a few moments ago. We all worked very hard to get here, and we came here to work for the country. If we are ever going to have a chance of resolving the big and difficult issues that face our Nation--issues such as our debt and deficit; issues such as the fiscal cliff; a whole set of issues including tax reform, entitlement reform--we can bet our last dollar those things are going to happen in the Senate. That is where things get done.
The fiscal cliff, with all due respect to the House, didn't happen in the House, it happened in the Senate. The minority leader and the Vice President worked it out. That is the way things have always gotten done, for the most part, in American history, and that is the way we need to allow things to get done in this Congress, because we have too many big issues to block everything that is coming through on the Senate floor.
Again, I wish to thank Senator Levin and Senator McCain for leading this effort. They are great leaders. I thank Senator Kyl, Senator Barrasso, Senator Alexander. Participating in those meetings with my Republican colleagues was a great experience, to listen to them, listen to their concerns. I think it was an education for all the Democrats to have that quality time where we did listen and then they listened to us. I think that was very important. We need to do more of that around here. We will get a lot more done if we do.
Also, our Democratic colleagues, of course led by Senator Levin, Senator Schumer, and Senator Cardin, everybody contributed, and I think it is something we should be proud of and it is also a great victory for bipartisanship. It is a great victory for bipartisanship. I think that is what the American people are screaming out for: for us to work together to get things done, and this is a good example of that.